When the Kansas City Chiefs spent a seventh-round selection on running back Isiah Pacheco, nobody blinked an eye — that isn’t surprising for a back that averaged just 3.9 yards per carry and 1.9 yards per catch with Rutgers last year. It was more than just the uninspiring production, as the Chiefs had signed former Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones, who is just one year removed from rushing for 978 yards and seven TDs, and re-signed Jerick McKinnon, the oft-injured back who had put up big numbers during KC’s postseason run.
With Clyde Edwards-Helaire penciled in as the starter, Jones referred to the trio of himself, CEH, and McKinnon as a “1-2-3 punch” during the offseason. That presumably left Pacheco and Derrick Gore, who averaged 5.0 yards per carry as a rookie, to battle for the fourth spot, whether that be on the 53-man roster or the practice squad. Much has happened since.
Pacheco has enjoyed a strong camp, adding value with his play on special teams, while RoJo has failed to impress, putting the veteran squarely on the roster bubble. Gore (thumb), meanwhile, landed on the Reserve/Injured list with a thumb injury and was subsequently released with an injury settlement.
At this point, Pacheco, who ran for 52 yards on 10 carries in the preseason finale, looks to have secured the No. 3 spot on the depth chart behind Edwards-Helaire and McKinnon. While being RB3 for a team doesn’t usually afford much status, you needn’t think very hard on why there could be extenuating circumstances as both players ahead of Pacheco have had trouble staying on the field.
For CEH, that involves missing three games as a rookie and seven in 2021. An ankle injury was the culprit in his first year, while it was a sprained MCL that felled him last season. Upon returning, Edwards-Helaire was used sparingly, topping 10 carries in a game just twice in seven contests (including playoffs). With such a dicey injury history, the Chiefs may continue to limit his touches to keep him on the field.
McKinnon has an even longer injury history, having missed both the 2018 and 2019 seasons completely after suffering a torn ACL. He has appeared in 29 of a possible 33 games the past two years, though he logged just 25 combined touches in the regular season before starring in the playoffs. Suffice to say that the 30-year-old back isn’t the most bulletproof of options.
Fantasy football outlook
While there are worse spots to be in than the No. 3 back on a high-powered offense, Pacheco’s value will likely be determined in large by the health of the players ahead of him on the depth chart. If Edwards-Helaire and McKinnon can buck the odds and stay on the field, Pacheco could spend his rookie year seeing spot duty and returning kicks. He’s a late-round stash candidate with some viable upside, but again his ability to realize that potential appears out of his control.